The Kyaranogosho Pond in Esashi Fujiwara Heritage Park in Oshu, Iwate Prefecture

Celebrating summer in Tohoku


While the cancellation and scaling down of many of Tohoku’s iconic summer events—such as the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori, Kanto Matsuri in Akita, and Tanabata Matsuri in Miyagi—was a blow to this festival-loving region, the Tohoku Destination Campaign team is doing their best to make sure that people can still enjoy Tohoku’s famously colorful summers while keeping safe.

Head up north to beat the heat and check out some special spots of the northern region this summer!

Esashi Fujiwara Heritage Park in Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, is a historical theme park, originally built in 1993 as a film set for a beloved TV series set in the Heian period (794-1185). The park now has around 120 perfectly detailed buildings for visitors to explore and take a trip back in time.

Sometimes known as “Tohoku’s Hollywood,” the 20-hectare park is also home to many floral highlights. The Kyaranogosho Pond (complete with a charming, rounded bridge) is filled with water lilies from June through August, and in September purple bush clover perfumes the Mikaeri-zaka Trail.

Purple bush clover at Esashi Fujiwara Heritage Park in Oshu, Iwate Prefecture

Hungry? One of Esashi Fujiwara Heritage Park’s lesser known highlights is a real gourmet trip back in time. For groups of five or more, the chefs can recreate a Heian period feast, complete with sweet white sake aperitif, steamed eel, festive red rice and other favorites of the courts!

For some truly natural art, head over to Kagamiishi in Fukushima Prefecture, to see their only-in-Japan rice field art! Begun in 2011, visitors can get a great view of this intricate (and edible) art from the viewing platform on top of the local library. This literary connection is clear in the designs chosen for each year’s tanbo art, which are made to look like picture books recreated on a grand scale.

Tanbo art in Kagamiishi in Fukushima Prefecture

Tanbo art at night

July and August are the best times to see the art, which is created by planting nine varieties of rice to make different shades of color. If you miss the summer event, in November the same design is recreated using colorful lights, for a magical view after sundown.

Visitors with children should stop by nearby Iwase Bokujo, a historic 140-year old farm where a huge corn maze, flower fields and cute critters await.

Stuck at home for the summer? Don’t worry, you can travel to Tohoku virtually thanks to livestreams by John Daub on the Only in JAPAN * GO You Tube channel! Be sure to keep an eye out for his adventures across Akita and Aomori Prefecture, scheduled to start after September.

If you need help planning your Tohoku adventure, be sure to check out Tabi Tohoku, with 208 articles from travel writers, all updated with the latest information, available in English, Korean, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and Thai.

Marking 10 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Tohoku Destination Campaign is bringing together each of the Tohoku prefectures to promote the wonders of the region both inside and outside Japan, turning Tohoku tourism into its own brand.

The campaign is aimed at encouraging as many people as possible to travel to Tohoku and showcasing the region's recovery from the 2011 disaster.

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Every prefectures in Japan is unique and beautiful. I hope to visit all before 70.

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Aren’t Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures — two of Tohoku’s six prefectures — under a quasi state of emergency?

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I've made three tenative plans to hit Fukushima in the past month, but all have been scuppered due to bad weather: typhoon, then 38 degrees heat and then rain. One day, I guess.....

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